Jarnell Stokes on his decision to come to Tennessee, his faith and dedication
Jarnell Stokes' arrival in Knoxville was met with fanfare on Thursday afternoon.
Needless to say, the reaction to Stokes' decision to play for Tennessee was much different in East Tennessee than in his hometown of Memphis.
"We went to an IHOP the day after (Dec. 22) I announced I was coming here, and we about got booed out of there,'' Stokes said. "It's nothing I didn't expect. I knew I'd get boos, people unfriending me on Twitter and a couple of threats.''
Stokes chose the Vols and coach Cuonzo Martin over Memphis, as well as Kentucky, Connecticut, Florida and Arkansas.
During a trip to the West Town Mall on Thursday, Stokes was greeted by numerous UT fans, many of whom asked for his autograph and had their pictures taken with the 6-foot-8 Stokes.
"I guess this is what it feels like to be kind of a celebrity,'' Stokes joked. "I haven't even played a game yet.''
Stokes, the first No. 1 prospect from the state of Tennessee to sign with the Vols in more than 13 years, is awaiting his transcripts being approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can practice.
Stokes won't be able to play in games until after Jan. 11, when classes start at UT, though he said Martin would determine when he would play — if at all — this season.
"Coach Martin hasn't promised me any playing time, or even if I'll be able to play this season,'' said Stokes, who was ranked No. 11 in the nation in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com. "I'm just looking forward to practice. I haven't been able to get up and down the court with a team since August. I've been working out, but that's a different kind of conditioning.''
Stokes, accompanied by his trainer, Tony Sarwar, started his day on the News Sentinel's Sports Page radio show on WNML-FM, 99.1, AM 990. The phone lines lit up as a half dozen callers dialed in to welcome the 17-year-old to Knoxville and shared their hopes for future success.
From there, Stokes was off for a full slab of ribs at a barbecue restaurant where he had a chance meeting with former UT player Ryan Childress.
Childress stopped by Stokes' table to wish him well before letting the Memphis Southwind High School mid-term graduate get back to his plate of food.
Stokes' next stop was the mall, where he sampled a dozen Tennessee hats before choosing his favorite.
Stokes wrapped up his day at the News Sentinel with a photo shoot and video interview, where he shared the rather obscure fact that he was once a state champion in chess and had taken honors classes from the time he was a freshman in high school.
"I'm no savior, I'm a basketball player,'' Stokes said. "But I've always been a winner, and I plan on being a piece of what Coach Martin is putting together here. The fans here, man, they're great. Today was awesome.''